Britain's Supreme Court: Is Scientology a 'real' religion?

The World

Britain’s highest court is currently considering whether Scientologists should be granted the right to perform official weddings, 40 years after their claim to be a state-recognized religion was rejected.

Scientology member Louisa Hodkin brought the current case to the court when her request to marry her fiancé in the Church of Scientology building in London was refused by a court of appeals, according to The Guardian.

Hodkin claims that this refusal is an example of religious discrimination.

In order to determine whether Scientologists should have the right to conduct marriages on their premises, the judges must first decide whether Scientology should be given legal religious status.

In 1970, the registar-general of births, deaths and marriages rejected Scientology buildings as venues for religious worship under section two of the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855.

Lord Denning, a conservative judge involved in that first decision, said of the organization, "there is considerable stress on the spirit of Man, and adherents of this religion or philosophy believe that a man's spirit is everlasting and moves from one human frame to another. But it is still, as far as I can see, the spirit of Man and not God.” 

In defense of the registrar-general, James Strachan emphasized the early beginnings of Scientology, pointing out that the belief system founded by the American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard did not declare itself a religion until 1951 and was not a religion but rather “dianetics.” 

“The process of Scientology is not about worshipping God, infinity or a supreme being,” Strachan insisted. “It’s about auditing, training and developing self-awareness.”

He added that Scientology “does not involve worship of a divine being. The central processes of Scientology are not about reverence or veneration. It’s about constructing the self.”

In response to the defense’s argument that other groups that do not worship a supreme deity, such as Buddhists, have been granted the official religious status, Strachan said, “If the registrar-general has wrongly registered Buddhists or Jains then they should be de-registered. The argument that it’s discrimination [against Scientologists] goes nowhere.”

Hodkin’s defense argued that the Church of Scientology already receives tax exemptions as a non-profit organization, and is accepted in other jurisdictions, like Australia, as a religious denomination.

Hodkin said, “I hope the court allows me to marry in my own church, surrounded by my family and friends, which means everything to me.”

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